Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for December 8, 2013

• Isaiah 11:1-10 • Romans 15:4-9 • Matthew 3:1-12 • 2 Advent A ‘14 •

Scripture Readings: Second Sunday of Advent 

Print PDF: Weekly Homily 12.08.2013

Last week I tried to explain why I set the 16 year-old Islamic girl – Malala, before us as our Advent guide this year. The Taliban sent death threats to this young Pakistani girl because she dared to be different and refused to cooperate with the inhumane side of the dominant culture in which she lives. She was a vocal advocate for the education of Pakistani girls. Eventually a gunman shot her in the head. She nearly died. Still recovering and still threatened by the Taliban, she stood before the U.N. General Assembly making an appeal for the education of all girls and boys. This young Muslim woman models what it means to be “Christian.”hogan-malala

In this season of Advent, as we listen to the voices of Isaiah and Jesus, Malala embodies their visions and good words. The refrain — “I am Malala!” summons me to be Christ for others.

Isaiah of Jerusalem spoke a vision of peace. It is a vision that has filled hearts with hope and joy for almost three millennia. “No animosity. No harm. No ruin on all my holy mountain.”

Jesus of Nazareth spoke a vision of peace; of compassion not sin; the kingdom not the wrath of God. He wants all to know the goodness of God. He demonstrated the basic ingredient of peace – unconditional love.

We know here, in the heart, they and Malala are right! We know they are right even as no nation on Earth is willing to embrace such visions or risk such love.

Today Matthew introduces John the Baptist. “Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan went out to and were being baptized by him.” Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah to identify John as “a voice of one crying out in the desert.” John’s message was different than that of Jesus. His task was to prepare for Jesus. Jesus is the One who proclaims and inaugurates “the reign of God” — “God’s new reality” among us forever.

It is amazing! We know so little of John beyond a variety of educated presumptions, and so much more about Jesus and his teaching. Yet many of us have never gone beyond the religion John preached.

So, “prepare the way of the Lord.” The magnetic force of the dominant culture in which we live. is powerful. A large percentage of our tax dollars are spent to prepare for, and to engage in war. A large percentage of our personal discretionary dollars are spent to distract us in huge stadiums. Addiction to violence and immersion in the entertainment world are like spiritual cataracts. They make it difficult for us to look deeply into the ultimate mystery of existence.

So, “prepare the way of the Lord.” An Episcopal bishop said, “if I walk the Christ path deeply enough and far enough, it will lead me beyond anything I now know about Christianity.” It requires great effort, perseverance and determination to walk the Christ path intentionally. Those who do so are drawing us into the ultimate mystery of existence.

So, “prepare the way of the Lord.” A sentimentalized Christmas sentimentalizes Christ. A sentimentalized Christ is irrelevant! Life in our culture, as in most cultures, tends to be superficial. Broaden the horizon of your life. In Christ we experience the Gracious Mystery we name God. That Gracious Mystery is living in us, loving us and empowering us to be fully human. So, “prepare the way of the Lord!”

The conviction and courage of a sixteen year-old Pakistani girl inspire me. Her name is Malala. This young Muslim girl reminds us who and what we are able to be — Christ for others! Trust your heart! Trust your experience! Resist and reject the subtle enticements of the dominant culture. Be different! Be confident that the visions of Isaiah and of Jesus are being realized as more of us are able to exclaim with so many others around the world — “I am Malala!” – I am Christ for others!

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